for National Geographic News
A broken tooth has become the key to identifying the mummy of Hatshepsut, the woman who ruled ancient Egypt as both queen and king nearly 3,500 years ago.
For decades speculation has raged over which of two female mummies found in a simple tomb in Egypt was the remains of the gender-bending queen.
Was she the dainty, fine-boned mummy gathering dust in the attic of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo? (Related photos: treasures of the Egyptian Museum.)
Or was she the bosomy matron left lying on the floor of a rough tomb 445 miles (720 kilometers) south of the Egyptian capital in the Valley of the Kings? (See a map of Egypt.)
"We are 100 percent sure," said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council on Antiquities and a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
Until the discovery, Hawass and others had believed that the smaller mummy—with long, wavy, white hair and its fingers individually bandaged—was more likely Hatshepsut.
"I think the face is quite royal," Hawass wrote of the smaller mummy in a recent issue of the Egyptology quarterly journal KMT.
But today, smiling in front of a horde of journalists at the Egyptian Museum, Hawass admitted, "I was wrong."
The finding means that Hatshepsut died of bone cancer around 50 years old, and she was overweight with diabetes, he said. The thin mummy is likley to be the queen's nurse.
Uncovering the Tooth
There were no bodies in Hatshepsut's tomb in the Valley of the Kings when archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed it in 1903.
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